Oregon funeral home offers service to preserve loved one’s DNA

A Salem funeral home is offering a new service that will allowed people to archive the DNA of the deceased and bind it to a fine white powder. (KPTV)

An Oregon funeral home is now harvesting DNA from the dead to potentially save lives in the future, providing Oregon families with the ability to bank their loved one's genetic record for all time.

It seems as though there are 1,001 ways to memorialize a lost loved, including decorative urns, cremation jewelry and thumbprint jewelry.

Now those in mourning can even preserve their loved one’s DNA in a tiny glass vial.

"Typically DNA is associated with people living, so this is unique that it can be done after they're dead and it can be stabilized," Jeff Andreason explained.

Andreason's Cremation and Burial Service in Springfield is one of the first funeral homes in the state to offer this service to interested families, as a way to preserve a person's genetic record before they are cremated or buried.

Staff at City View Funeral Home Cemetery and Crematorium in Salem and Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Funeral and Cremation told FOX 12 they are about to offer the service, but they're on a waiting list to be trained on how to do it.

"People that really want DNA samples are pretty motivated about it," Andreason said.

He explained that workers at his funeral home harvest the DNA by swabbing the cheek of the deceased person. They then send that swab off to DNA Memorial in Canada, a company that developed what they call a "breakthrough" in technology which allows them to extract DNA and bind it to a fine white powder.

"There's a vial with a DNA sample inside, and you can see it's stored at room temp, and the key is it's preserved," Andreason said.

Administrators with DNA Memorial tell FOX 12 that having a genetic record of a family's medical history is an important tool for doctors and researchers.

Such a history allows them to track mutations in DNA over generations, which could help to predict diseases before they occur.

Beyond that, DNA testing can be helpful in uncovering someone's ancestry.

"I think it's a useful thing for some people,” Andreason said. “Not everyone is interested, and those that are really do want to have material and confirm their ancestry, or potentially look into their medical history and get an idea about what they can expect in the future medically."

Andreason notes his mortuary charges $263 for the service, and there's enough material collected and placed in the vial to be tested around 10 times.

Of course, there's nothing to prevent someone who is alive from having their DNA sampled and preserved. If that doesn't happen, however, this service could be that last chance to preserve a person’s genetic legacy.

Copyright 2016 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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